We have shared before how we weren’t sure if returning to house sitting in Xcalak was a good idea for us. It had nothing to do with our feelings on the town (which we love) or the people here (who we love), and more to do with a concern about having ‘been there, done that.’ We started a life of travel in order to escape repetition and consistency so we’re constantly checking in on ourselves to make sure that we’re not getting too comfortable or complacent. Because of this, we certainly had a concern or two heading back to this town we thought we knew so well.
HA! I swear the longer we are living like this the more I realize how little I actually know.
Sure there are a lot of similarities between our last Xcalak house sit and this one. There’s the same blue ocean right outside our back door and the same ridiculously beautiful sunrises. The same eagle rays playing and jumping and the same slow pace of life. There’s also the same heat, humidity and creatures big and small that are all found in the tropics. And yet? Well in certain ways, it feels like we’re living in a completely new and different place, one we’ve never been to before, and it all comes down to location, location, location.
The Xcalak beach road is about 14 kilometers from town to the last house on the road. Right now we’re about 2.5 kilometers away from town but that last house on the road, 14 kilometers and a long drive away? That is where we house sat the first time we were here. And because the beach road is a dirt/gravel/mud road, it goes from pretty banged up to nearly impassable during the rainy season. As the road deteriorates so does the desire and ability to go very far from home. Inevitably, in a lot of ways, this influenced our options for social interaction, food and just about everything else. When it takes 45 minutes to get down the road to a friend’s house, popping by for a beer isn’t such an impromptu thing. So, previously, while we tended to socialize with the people on the ‘north end of the road,’ (that were only 25 minutes away) that script is flipped a bit this time as we’re discovering the people and places that surround us on the ‘south end of the road,’ and close to town.
Depending on where you are on the Xcalak road a trip to the nearest open restaurant or store can range from 5 minutes to 45 minutes (or longer if it rains). A trip to town is the same. Honest to god, I borrowed a cup of sugar from our neighbor the other day. I was in the middle of cooking, realized I was out, messaged them and five minutes later our neighbor was walking across the beach with sugar in hand. And if they didn’t have any? I could have just run to town and picked some up. Sounds mundane, right? I cannot overemphasize to you how completely different this is for us. At our other sit if I’d run out of sugar? Well, I’m just not using sugar in that recipe because there wasn’t another house, person or pet in sight and two-hour round trip to try the stores of Xcalak for a cup of sugar just wasn’t happening.
Having neighbors does have its pluses, but we also have to be a bit more cognizant of our surroundings. For example, everyone sleeps with the windows open so whether our neighbors wanted to or not they were able to keep up with how our hometown baseball team, the Kansas City Royals, were doing in the World Series (they WON by the way, still am so excited, still can’t quite believe it!!) based on our hooting, hollering and cheering.
Our fresh fruit and produce is procured from trucks that drive down the road on an almost daily basis. Well, it’s almost daily when you live where we live. When we lived at the end of the road we had a truck that was willing to come maybe 2-3 days a week. And you know what was on that truck? The stuff that the rest of the people on the road didn’t want. It wasn’t uncommon to get half a head of lettuce. Half a head because the other half was pretty brown so Manuel would chop it in half and hand me the good half. We’d still pay for the whole thing, of course. Or the house before us would have taken the last tomato, onion or egg. Being the last to shop meant always geting creative with what we had been planning to make for dinner.
Where we are now? Oh it’s like I died and went to Whole Foods heaven. I mean, not exactly. Ok, I mean not at all. We’re still buying our food from the back of a pickup truck but comparatively speaking we get a pretty good selection. We can take a look and pick out the best bananas, apples and mangoes (sorry guys at the end of the road). Best of all? He hasn’t sold all his cookies yet. Dinner planning (and dessert) has gotten a whole lot more reliable. And at the same time, one of the things I love about being in the location we’re at now is the ability to be spontaneous if we so desire. We can decide at the last minute we don’t feel like cooking and be at a restaurant in five minutes (unless it’s raining). There’s still basically one restaurant, but at least it’s close. And trust me on this – food is much better when it’s 5 minutes away rather than 45.
We have also found ourselves spending more time in the actual town of Xcalak. Whether it’s stopping by a friend’s house or fishing off the town pier at sunset, we can do these spontaneously, we just don’t have to plan ahead as much (and make the 45 minute drive), if we don’t want to. The long list of things that are different between the two spots also includes a different coastline to explore via our kayaks, different reef and coral heads to explore when we snorkel in our backyard and new fishing spots for Jason to check out.
But please, please don’t get me wrong, I’m definitely not saying that one house sit was so much better than the other, just two incredibly different experiences just a few kilometers apart. The remoteness of our previous house sit at the end of the road really had some amazing benefits. There was zero traffic driving by and that silence was incredibly peaceful (especially for someone like me that has a tough time sleeping). If Jason wanted to play his music as loud as he wanted or practice his guitar at midnight? The only person that might get angry or annoyed would be, um, me.
Want to take advantage of a rain shower and conserve water by showering outside? Well, 9 times out of 10 it’s okay to do so, but that 10th time when the lobster fishing boat comes by it can be a big surprise for you (and him). While there we had miles of beachfront pretty much to ourselves, an amazing property and pets to take care of with world class snorkeling right off the beach. Not to mention, we had a good group of friends on that end of the road that we loved hanging out with. For all these reasons, we still make the drive to the end of the road on a regular basis.
It’s bizarre, really, that we thought we knew all about life in Xcalak because we had already house sat here once before. A minor change in location has really provided us a with a major change in perspective. It’s really been an eye-opening experience and has reshaped our thinking as we consider where we might go on future house sits. We’ve come to realize that every single house and person here, and in other cities, offers a different experience and lifestyle and trying some of the other experiences on for size is something we’re looking forward to!